The Illinois state legislature took a step Wednesday that backers say supports women’s rights: The Equal Rights Amendment is just one vote away from Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk, marking the latest step in a process nearly 100 years in the making.
“I find it absolutely ridiculous that we’re still talking about this almost 100 years later!” exclaimed Farrell Davies, president of the Peoria branch of the League of Women Voters.
That sentiment is shared among many lawmakers and women’s organizations across the state, as the Equal Rights Amendment passed the vote of a House subcommittee.
“We have a historic opportunity to amend the United States constitution to protect half the population of America,” said State Rep. Lou Lang, in his address to the committee. “When will the Illinois General Assembly ever get a chance to do that?”
The ERA was first brought up as a topic in the 1920’s, back when the 19th Amendment was ratified. However, it wasn’t brought before Congress until the 1970’s. Back then, it passed, but required 38 states’ approval to become national law.
It only got 35.
Last year, Nevada ratified the ERA, becoming number 36, and Illinois is one vote away from becoming 37.
“It’s a more secure future for my daughters, and for all our daughters,” said Kathryn Modisette, co-founder of the Ratify ERA Illinois advocacy group. “I think women in the future, the next generation, need to have an equal footing.”
Illinois already has its own version of the Equal Rights Amendment at the state level, so things wouldn’t change much here. But on the national level, women would, by law, be treated the same as men.
That raises some concerns among critics, especially those who say women should not be required to serve in the draft, as they would if the ERA was ratified.
State Rep. Kathleen Williams, however, had one thing to say about that:
“I think that we need to look at: Equal is equal. If you can do it whether or not you’re a man or a woman, that does it.”
For the League of Women Voters, that is music to their ears.
“It’s about everybody having the same rights under law,” said Davies. “That’s what we’re built upon, that’s why it’s important.”
The ERA still has to make its way through a full vote in the state House of Representatives before it can be signed by Governor Rauner.
That vote was held off on Wednesday, due to a lack of voting members in Springfield. It is expected to pass soon.
The ratification deadline was back in 1982, but some lawmakers argue a Constitutional Amendment has precedent, making the deadline debatable.